Mayo put Donegal to the sword in stunning style
The All Ireland champions suffer a 16-point drubbing at the hands of the team they beat in last year’s final
Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor celebrates scoring his second goal. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Here’s a man the Kerry players lamented when they lost him; a man James Horan recruited to bring technical steel to his already talented squad.
Anyway, as Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher took personal responsibility for the Donegal warm-up the Mayo players were rolling around the ground. They would take contact with the ball and hit the deck. Over and over again. They were preparing for war.
Turns out the physical collisions weren’t much of a contest. The Ulster final was no mirage. It happened. Donegal have been unable to raise themselves to the heights of 2012.
The proof is in the statistics. Monaghan, were shown to be average and naive by Tyrone yesterday, and they decimated Donegal with their intensity.
Mayo, a far more serious proposition, brought so much more; they brought accuracy, pace and a phenomenal appetite to humiliate the All-Ireland champions.
The half time scoreboard was a stunning sight: Mayo led 2-10 to 0-4. Really the contest was cooked after five minutes as they stormed into a 1-3 to no reply lead.
What crushed Donegal was all Mayo’s marquee forwards stepped up. Cillian O’Connor had a point within seconds, a goal within minutes and added a free and 45 before the turn.
He checked out after 53 minutes with 3-4. His first goal was down to Éamonn McGee coughing up possession on his own end line. O’Connor hustled it off him, performed a neat one-two with Kevin McLoughlin before sliding it under Paurl Durcan.
Alan Dillon looked untouchable when posting an early 0-2. But what they really missed last year was Andy Moran. The classy All Star hit a point of beauty from an insane angle after the energy of Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins brought matters deep into Donegal territory.
Higgins, released from the chains of man marking, was everywhere and created the second goal for an overlapping Donal Vaughan. A defender rushing forward to score a goal — had the counties swapped jerseys beforehand?
Donegal couldn’t win a scrap of clean ball. Aidan O’Shea, on the other hand, took down at least four balls from the clouds and showed plenty of balance when tip-toeing his own personal tightrope having been yellow carded for a full frontal challenge on Frankie McGlynn.
They nagged and dragged out of him, but he kept his head until the half-time whistle when a few choice words were flung at Michael Murphy. O’Shea eventually walked after getting a second yellow card but not until injury time.
The Donegal captain had his own problems, showing a rare lack of discipline and composure when mouthing off to referee Joe McQuillan. It cost his team 10 metres.
Really the interval lead should’ve been greater but Cathal Carron and McLoughlin spurned a double goal chance. But this was a massacre. O’Connor was the latest to profit from Vaughan’s wanderings to grab that third goal in the 40th minute.
The hat-trick was banked after 44 minutes, Higgins flooding through the middle and Moran sliding off his man to find his fellow sharp-shooter. There was more misery for the famed Donegal defence as Éamonn McGee was red carded for stamping on Enda Varley.
And still we had 18 minutes of shooting practice to sit through. Many Donegal folk had headed for the hills. Empty handed this time. Desolate and shell-shocked. Bizarrely, those who lingered danced around in delight when Colm McFadden blasted a late, irrelevant goal to the roof of Robert Hennelly’s net.
Very unlike the Mayo diehards a year previous. Maybe they are sated after last year, but this was an awfully meek defence of such a hard fought All-Ireland title.
Mayo face Tyrone next. That will be a far messier, confrontational affair.
Mayo: 1 R Hennelly; 2 T Cunniffe, 3 G Cafferkey, 7 C Boyle (0-1); 5 L Keegan (0-1), 6 D Vaughan (1-0), 22 C Barrett (0-1); 8 A O’Shea, 9 S O’Shea (0-1); 10 K McLoughlin (0-1), 4 K Higgins, 12 A Dillon (0-2); 13 C O’Connor (3-4, two frees and 45), 14 A Freeman(0-2), 15 A Moran (0-1). Substitutions: 23 C Carron for T Cunniffe (26 mins), 11 R Feeney (0-1) for A Dillon (45 mins), 21 E Varley (0-1) for A Moran (48 mins), 24 D Coen for C O’Connor (53 mins), 19 K Keane (0-1) for C Boyle (57 mins)
Donegal: 1 P Durcan; 2 P McGrath, 3 N McGee, 4 E McGee; 5 F McGlynn, 11 R McHugh, 7 A Thompson; 8 N Gallagher, 9 R Kavanagh; 10 R Bradley, 18 Declan Walsh, 28 M McHugh (0-2); 13 P McBrearty, 14 M Murphy (0-6, three frees and 45), 15 C McFadden (1-0). Substitutions: 6 K Lacey (0-1) for A Thompson (23 mins), 12 David Walsh (0-1) for R Bradley, 21 M McElhinney for N McGee (both half-time), 19 L McLoone for R Kavanagh (43 mins)
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).